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20th (Part III)

November 11, 2012

I have received positive feedback from some people who have read Parts I & II of 20th and I am so happy! I am incredibly glad that my story has touched some of you; I hope that it will continue to touch the rest of the world. Happy reading!



What the hell am I going to do if I don’t get into grad school? Is grad school even what I really want? 

I found myself running away every time I was confronted with these questions; I didn’t want to think about them. Getting rejected by my preferred grad schools was very likely, since my grades were only just decent. But what was even worse, was thinking about the second question. I think in the back of my mind, no matter what I told others or how hard I tried to convince myself, I knew that I never wanted to go to grad school.

What I realized amidst all of this is that we often lie to ourselves more than we lie to others.

The thing with me is: I say “yes” to things even when I would rather say “no”; this is because I often times hope that I will change my mind, even though I usually never do. My roommate would ask me if I would like to go out with her and the girls the coming Friday night; I would always say, “sure”, even knowing full well that I would rather not. But like I told her over and over again, it wasn’t because I wanted to just tell her something that she wanted to hear. It was because I was hoping that I would actually change my mind by the time Friday night rolled around. But my mind did never change whenever Friday night came ‘round. It was the same way about going to grad school for philosophy. I kept telling everyone, myself included, that I wanted to go to grad school and that it was going to happen, even though I knew deep in my heart, that that was something I didn’t really want to do. For pity’s sake, I couldn’t even imagine myself doing it.

Just like Anne, I’m always imagining myself into things.

You see, whenever I contemplate doing something – anything ranging from going to study at the local café to big life decisions – I need to be able to imagine myself doing it. Can I imagine myself sitting by the window, doing my readings in that café? Can I imagine myself moving to Montreal, walking and chatting with people on campus? And when I imagine myself doing it, can I imagine myself being happy? Can I imagine myself actually liking it?

I couldn’t imagine going to grad school at all.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 25th, 2012, after having talked to my thesis advisor, I realized that I only had superficial reasons for wanting to go to grad school: I wanted to make my parents proud, I wanted to give the Vietnamese community something to talk about, and I wanted my future children to be able to say to their friends, “My mother has a Ph.D”. But with this realization, came an even bigger one: that I wanted nothing more than to become a high school teacher.

In the past, I had always entertained the thought of becoming a high school teacher, but dismissed it every time. Why? Because I thought being a teacher would be boring; all you do all day is teach the same material over and over again. I also wanted to reach for something I thought was bigger and better than teaching (cue overachieving); to me, teaching was just teaching – it was nothing special. But in that moment when I realized that grad school was not for me, I also realized how completely wrong I was about teaching.

Let me back track a bit and illustrate for you the picture of Tuesday, September 25th, 2012. On the morning of, I woke up and prepped myself for the meeting I was going to have with my thesis advisor. I was so incredibly nervous, but I knew that in an hour or so, I would be more sure about “everything”.

Things turned out better than I expected them to because he did most of the talking. I even remember thinking, good thing he’s doing all the talking; this way, I won’t have to do any! Just keep on nodding and jotting down notes. At one point in the “conversation”, he asked me whether I was thinking of going to grad school. I told him that the more I thought about it, the more I was slowly inching away from it, towards going to Teacher’s College. Of course, he did not intend to push me in any direction with what he said next – he was simply telling me his experience. He told me that grad school was all about research. Even after you finish grad school, becoming a professor is all about your research; teaching is something you do because it’s a contractual agreement between you and the university. So he said to me, “You’re basically choosing between a career of teaching or researching”.

After my meeting with him, I had an Honours class to attend. Of course, I didn’t pay attention; I was too hung over on what my thesis advisor had said. “You’re choosing between a career of teaching or researching”. To me, the choice was clear. Sure, I’d like to do research – that kind of stuff is interesting. But what I really wanted to do was teach. What’s more, the thought of teaching made me incredibly excited.

And isn’t it always a good sign when you become excited at the thought of something?

When I think of teaching, I think about all of the teachers that I have encountered, particularly those that I’ve encountered in high school at Harbord Collegiate Institute. Every chance I get, I always go back to visit that school, and every time, I am confronted by the reality that these teachers really love their jobs. Now that I’ve graduated high school, I can finally see it from the other side of the fence. I can see how happy the teachers are; I can see how fulfilled they feel to see their students succeeding; I can really see the joy in their eyes. And this, I know, is exactly what I want. And on that morning of Tuesday, September 25th, 2012, when I finally realized that this was what I wanted, I felt truly happy for the first time in a long while.

Tacky, but it effectively gets the message across 🙂

Tune in tomorrow for Part IV! & Happy Remembrance Day everybody (lest we forget).


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